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Sotirios Voulgaris: the Greek behind Bulgari

By on March 24, 2020

Sotirios Voulgaris (1857-1932) was the Greek creator of Bulgari, one of the world’s most famous jewelery brands today. Born in the Greek village of Kalarites in March of 1857, Sotirios began his career as a jeweller in his home town of Paramythia (Epirus, Greece). His parents were George Voulgaris and Eleni Strougari.

Of the eleven children of the family, Sotiris Voulgaris was the only one who survived and managed to continue the family tradition. The passion with jewellery started with his grandfather Constantine, who was a street vendor in the villages of Epirus. The talent to create gold and silver jewel was inherited by Sotiris, who along with his father opened a shop in Paramythia.

At that time, Paramythia and other villages in the region were facing problems from the Ottoman authorities that still occupied Epirus. Repeated burnings of the village and serious damage to the shop forced the Bulgari family to move to Corfu and then to Naples, Italy.

In Naples, the family opened their first gold jewellery shop. However, the city’s heavy crime scene posed a major problem for their valuable merchandise. After several burglaries they were forced to close.

In 1881, Sotirios Voulgaris and his family moved to Rome. Three years later, in 1884, he founded his company and opened his second shop in Via Sistina. The store in Via Sistina was then replaced by the current flagship store in Via dei Condotti opened in 1905 by Bulgari with the help of his two sons, Constantino (1889–1973) and Giorgio (1890–1966).

After Giorgio’s death in 1966, his son Gianni led the company as co-chief executive with his cousin Marina, chairman and CEO of Bulgari in the early 1970s. Around the same time, Bulgari opened its first international locations in New York City, Paris, Geneva, and Monte Carlo.

In 1984, Sotirio’s grandsons Paolo and Nicola Bulgari were named Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the company and nephew Francesco Trapani was named CEO. Trapani’s goal to diversify the company was started in the early 1990s with the release of the Bulgari perfume line. Under Francesco’s direction the company has established itself as a luxury goods brand recognized throughout the world.

In 1995, the company was listed on the Borsa Italiana. The company had a 150% revenue growth between 1997 and 2003.

On March 6, 2011 the French luxury group Louis Vitton announced that it was acquiring Bulgari in a lucrative deal for €4.3 billion ($6.01 billion), higher than LV had ever offered for any other company.

Moreover, the Bulgari family sold their 50.4% controlling share in exchange for 3% of LVMH, thus making the Bulgari family the second-biggest family shareholder behind the Arnaults in LVMH.

This story was first published in greekgateway.com

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